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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Pilot Slazenger died after fatal cockpit mistake

Last words revealed to inquest

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A CONSULTANT who died after being pulled from the wreckage of his plane told his daughter that doubts over the landing gear led to the fatal decision to abort a landing.

Dr Michael Slazenger (69) -- whose family founded the famous sports brand later sold to Dunlop -- revealed the cause of the accident to his daughter Sarah just moments after the plane crash that took his life.

The retired anaesthetist died on April 12, 2010, two days after his plane crashed on the private airstrip of his Powerscourt Estate in Co Wicklow. His passenger Noel Whitney (66) was killed instantly.

A report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) could not establish why Dr Slazenger aborted the landing at the last minute. The plane clipped a tree, hit the ground and burst into flames.

But yesterday -- the final day of the inquest into Dr Slazenger's death -- Dublin City coroner Dr Brian Farrell said the cause of the accident had emerged in an email from Dr Slazenger's daughter Sarah to the court.

In the email, she said that immediately after he had been pulled from the wreckage, her father told her that he thought the landing gear of the plane had not been deployed.

The court accepted that Dr Slazenger died during an emergency aborted landing after he mistakenly believed that the wheels were not down.

An experienced pilot, he was trying to perform a low altitude 'go around' in order to attempt a second landing when the left wing of the plane hit a tree, causing it to crash.

The inquest also heard from Dr Slazenger's nephew Alex Slazenger, who said he was at home after 3pm, when he heard a "loud bang." His mother Sally Anne screamed that something had happened to Michael.

"I ran towards Michael's plane, which was on fire," said Mr Slazenger. "I saw a man crawling with difficulty out of the plane and I ran towards him to assist him away from the plane. I grabbed hold of the man, who I recognised as my uncle, and dragged him about five metres from the plane."

Controls

The inquest found that Dr Slazenger died from multiple organ failure due to burns and that the death was an accident.

A sloping runway and poorly designed cockpit controls were highlighted as key factors in the tragedy. Inspector Leo Murray of the AAIU said the control panel on the 1968 Falco series plane was not ideal because it was difficult for the pilot to see the light indicating that the wheels were deployed.

Following the hearing, Dr Slazenger's wife Noreen told the Irish Independent that her husband had been flying since he was 12.

She said he was "terribly upset" about the death of his passenger and that he would not have got out of the aircraft if he hadn't already established that his passenger was dead.

Irish Independent

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